My previous urban spelunking trips have taken me into abandoned schools and houses, an abandoned Kodak factory, and an abandoned train station. Last week, I added a church to the list. This adventure was slightly different from most of my previous ones, as a) the church is not abandoned, though the part I visited is not generally open for visitors, and b) I had permission to be there.
The Votivkirche stands just north of Schottentor, not far from the university, and has always intrigued me. It was built in the mid-1800s following an assassination attempt on Emperor Franz Joseph I. The emperor survived, and his brother, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian (later Emperor of Mexico) raised the funds necessary to build a church on the site of the attack, as a thank-you to God for sparing Franz Joseph's life.
These days, the Votivkirche has a more-or-less permanent fixture of scaffolding around the front, which is partially covered with giant advertisements for things like cars, seaside travel destinations, and Internet service providers that are of questionable relevance to the theme of 'God'. It was all shut up when I tried to visit upon arriving in Vienna, but apparently the sanctuary is now open to visitors during business hours.
I didn't visit the sanctuary, though. Sanctuaries are for lowly humans. Towers are more my style.
People aren't usually allowed up the towers at Votivkirche because it's a fairly demanding and dangerous trek up. But apparently, all it takes is a little buttering-up of the people in the church office, and exceptions can be made! The towers are accessed via little doors on either side of the church. First, you climb up a dark spiral staircase - unused and full of cobwebs and spiders. Then you get to a little landing, where bells are hung and angels stand guard.
It's too bad most other people don't get to make that trek.
Too bad for them, that is... all the more magic for me! My favourite thing I've done in Vienna so far? This would be the one.